Keep Right Except To Pass

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In Spring of 2015, Albertans watched as BC's Transport Minister raised the issue regarding 'left-lane bandits'. These are the drivers who insist in staying in passing lanes on multi-lane highways. Not only are they breaking the law (section 21(2)(a)), their disruptive behaviour is contributing to the road issues, infuriating drivers who they prevent from passing and adding to the dangers on the road.

Speed is often identified as the cause of many crashes; however, there is less discussion regarding the differences in the speed between vehicles that raises the risk for a crash to occur. This is often referred to as 'flow of traffic'. There is a correlation of increased risk for a crash or multiple crash incidents when just one driver becomes an obstacle on the road. This situation of an obstructing driver creates speed variance between the other drivers on the road and creates more vehicle movement on the roads by forcing other drivers to change lanes to get around a vehicle. This one obstructing driver can literally cause hundreds or even thousands (depending on trip length) of additional interactions between vehicles that would never have occurred had he/she chosen to keep right.

So why do we have left lane drivers? There are two very common reasons: these drivers are ignorant and choose to monopolize the passing lane because they see there is less traffic in that lane (and for a reason) or consider themselves self-appointed speed police who deliberately and maliciously block traffic. Ironically, these drivers have escaped the glaring attention of both government and law enforcement officials perpetuating the cycle of road rage and contributing to the deteriorating safety of the roadways.

Current and consistent signage for left lane usage is lacking within Alberta. The signs that can be found on highways outside urban areas are outdated, poorly worded and lack the clarity to keep left lanes free for passing traffic. It is time for the province and the municipalities to jointly step up to update the roads to make left lanes safe for passing by implementing legislation that provides law enforcement the means to enforce safe passing in left lanes. Law enforcement officials should fully enforce left lane laws and help keep these bandits out of the passing lane to make the roads safer for everyone.

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